Let’s face it. Oscar Wilde knew a thing or two about temptation. As he so blithely stated, the best way of handling temptation is “to give in to it”. You can always count of Oscar for a few solid lifestyle tips. Now that Pitti Uoumo is once again upon us, let the open road spur your tour of Florentine pleasure. No place offers more joy per square inch. For style mavens, this place is a creative dynamo.
Among Italy’s jewels,Florence is magical. Every time I take a room with a view, my breath is swept away in the majesty. Beauty and sipping Brunello make a wonderful combination. Just think, you are surrounded by some of the most magnificent art the world has every known, and the Duomo is just the cherry on the cake. For fans of elegant menswear, the Pitti shows are a must. Every style buff, blogger, buyer and designer of worth is in attendance. However, the real cat walk is on the street.
Start getting the Italian vibe at any neighbourhood café. A dear friend of mine, Carlo likes to start his spree at Proacacci 64 Via Tornabuoni for pannini al tartufo. He washes it down with a couple of glasses of prosecco chased by a ristretto. This is guaranteed to chase away any misgivings of an early morning. Opened in 1885, they have been elevating the moods of Florentine and visitor alike ever since.
Remember la dolce vita is much more than a question of lucre. It is a clin d’oeil of what should constitute good taste. It doesn’t matter how you arrive here. Robert Louis Stevenson might have arrived by donkey if given the chance. Perhaps you should stock your luggage with paperback copies of Vasari, Petrarch and Aretino. Personally, I counsel coming with an empty bag to bring home your edible treasures of dried wild mushrooms and pear mostarda not to mention the clothes and accessories you don’t need but can’t live without.
One thing is clear: once you check into your hotel, head for an espresso. You are going to need a shot of adrenalin. There is so much to do and see you will be stumped on where to begin. Do not make your visit, “If it’s Tuesday this must be Florence”. If you must see Michelangelo’s David, I understand. Just make sure you have booked tickets in advance. The queues are mind-blowing.
The best agenda is to float like a cloud across the Tuscan sky. Do not execute your visit with military precision. Wander. Let yourself get so lost that even Dante would have difficulty locating your whereabouts. In terms of accommodation, Florence offers much choice. If you can afford to do so, treat yourself to one of the better establishments. I recommend the Savoy or The Gallery Art Hotel. EM Forster was right. There is nothing like a Room With A View. Having breakfast on a rooftop terrace will give any stay that romance we all treasure on professional or personal escapades.
Do not think that because this city is classified by UNESCO that it is a museum town preserved in aspic. Au contraire, mon cher! Although some of the big names are present like flies on the wall so are the artisans and their family-run institutions that put Florence on any Fashionistas map. The menswear shows at the Pitti Palace are not just here for their majestic backdrop. One thing I absolutely adore are the infinite possibilities to uncover something exceptional. Think Masaccio or a hidden garden.
For men, there are sartorial temptations galore. Two of my favorite Italian tailors are here. One is Liverano & Liverano and the other is Piero & Franco Cisternino. The Florentine style is a slight variation of what you will find from the masters of Naples. What you can count on is stitching by hand, attention to detail, the right sort of sleeve head, and an excellent selection of fabrics. Both houses offer hospitality and counsel. Make sure you stay a week so that you can get in your first fitting. Hey, there are worse places to pass the time than this town.
While you are “waiting” check out the amazing Ferragamo museum and the leather emporium Bisonte. While you are at it, might as well through caution to the winds and pay a visit to Gucci and Pucci both noble Florentine houses. Who knows, you might stumble upon the ideal jacket in tobacco suede.
Geographically, the city centre is divided into four historic areas, which take their names from the leading church in the vicinity. They are Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni and Santa Croce and Santa Maria del Fiore. The most popular shopping areas cross these quarters, and as you trundle around popping in and out of shops, galleries, and chapels a simple warning: Be prepared to have your life transformed and your wallet lightened.
I love the parts of the town known as the Oltrano, which literally means on the other side of the river Arno. This quarter has been known for its artisans, and is quite trendy among fashionistas. The easiest way to access this quarter is on foot by crossing the Ponte Vecchio, which sports one of the most romantic views of the city. On the bridge you will find goldsmiths and jewelers clustered together in tiny shops.
Once you are in the Oltrano, you will find Geraldine Tayer, who has been creating made to measure dresses for women and handicrafts for over 20 years. Then there is the Ristorante Borgo San Jacopo with its modern approach to Tuscan culinary favourites. It seems almost every alcove has a terrace to sip coffee and nibble snacks. There are several outstanding wine dealers specialised in the wine of Tuscan estates. All are willing to ship unless you can drive your treasures back home.
For women, Salvatore Ferragamo is not just “the shoemaker of dreams”, but also an iconic designer of Italian chic. The Italians have a genetic code for style. Their dress sense is innate and consumed as easily as drinking a chilled Campari and soda.
If you are crazy for silk, you must visit Antico Setifico Fiorentino for its hand loomed iridescent clothe. For exquisite paper, go to Guilio Giannini. One of the best glove manufactures, Madova sits at the corner up from the Ponte Vecchio. Before I forget, be sure to visit the Offiina Profumo-Farmaceuti di Santa Maria Novella in order to stock up on their lovely scents and toiletries. The formulas for their perfumes date back to the sixteenth century. Now, how’s that for a true heritage brand!
As I sat with friends at a local trattoria having dinner, our conversation focused on the upcoming show at Pitti and the poetry of the city. Conversation became quite animated and Beatrice blurted out: “In a city known for its artistic and cultural heritage second to none, and for leather as soft as butter is it any wonder that some of the best food and wine in the world comes from this part of Italy”.
With that salvo, she served us both another bumper of grappa. Tomorrow, we will drink in the treasures of the Uffizi.
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Article Title: Why You Should Give In To Italian Style
Photographs: curated by ES
About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on style | fashion | culture | travel | food | art |
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